My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In anticipation of the visit to Duluth and the Glensheen mansion I read "Will to Murder," the book written by one of the reporters who covered the case at the time of the murder of Elisabeth Congdon, along with the head detective and the (then) D.A. who prosecuted the case.  The book was riveting and I'm embarrassed that this entire story was unknown to me.

Interestingly, the route that I took to get to Duluth was through the far north of Wisconsin, which was done in an effort to see some Fall color. Looking at a map, though, I realized that the road would take me through Brule.  Elisabeth Congdon had a weekend home in Brule and, in fact, had been there the weekend before her murder. Didn't know if the property is still in the family (the house in Duluth passed to the University of Minnesota at Elisabeth's death as a result of a clause in her father's will), but the Brule property was privately owned by Elisabeth so it would have passed to her heirs. While it may sold in the past 30 years, I thought I'd try to see it anyway for the sake of symmetry given that I was on my way to Glensheen.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bed & Breakfast in Duluth

The drive this morning from Ashland took me near the Brule River and there was just the smallest amount of color in the trees, but we're definitely a couple of weeks from full color.  What an odd year:  terrible spring, indifferent summer, and now a late fall.
When I got to Superior, it was interesting to note that absolutely nothing looked familiar.  I realize that it's been 40 years since I lived here, and then only for a short time, but it was as though I had never been here at all.  All in all, Superior is definitely the poor relation compared to Duluth, but it appears that the downtown area of Superior is undergoing major renovations to restore the storefronts and buildings to former glory.  Perhaps it will be a beautiful community again at some point.

Oh, and by the way, I did drive around the area called Congdon Road near Brule thinking that maybe I'd stumble on the summer 'cottage' used by Elisabeth Congdon.  No such luck.  I'm not even sure I was in the right neighborhood.  Drove down a driveway just to check it out and surprised a nice gentleman who was getting ready to go fly fishing.  I just told him I was looking for a Boy Scout camp.

The lovely Ellery House in Duluth
In keeping with my 'historic tour' theme, I booked two nights a beautiful bed & breakfast in Duluth. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information about the home.  It was built in 1890 by Ellery and Lilla Holliday and is described as a graceful Queen Anne Victorian with carved gables, turreted porch, and beveled and stained glass windows.  Holliday was a real estate developer and the home reflects the elegance and extravagance of the times.  It was built at a cost of $6,500.   Later, Thomas and Daisy Wahl owned The Ellery House.  He was a business tycoon known as 'Seaway Sam' for his enthusiastic and tireless promotion of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Thomas and Daisy Wahl were also figure skaters.  They skated exhibitions for audiences around the world, including the King of England.

The Thomas Wahl room where I can see Lake Superior from the window
In 1987, it was purchased by the present owners, Joan and Jim Halquist, and they turned The Ellery House into an inn.  There are two guest bedrooms and two guest suites; I'm in the Thomas Wahl room. The room is one floor up and a lovely bay window and windows that open! There is a gas fireplace that I might try out tonight if it gets cool enough. There are hand-made tiles of pink flowers in relief all the way around the fireplace with alternating pink and green tiles on the hearth. The bathroom looks like maybe it was a closet at one time. The toilet and a tiled shower are behind the door, and a pedestal sink is in the bedroom portion. The dressers and side tables are marble-topped, like Grandma's dresser.

My delicious home cooked breakfast served in my room
Like all inns, the rooms downstairs are common rooms:  large parlor, dining room, kitchen. Breakfast is served each morning, or you can have it in your room (which I'm going to do tomorrow), and coffee and tea are always available. Also available are sherry and port for a nightcap.

I should have plenty of time to catch up on my blogs tonight -- there are no TVs anywhere in the house!  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Color (?) Drive

As part of my new hobby, I'm heading to Superior and Duluth for a couple of days of house viewing before heading down to Minneapolis for a 4-day conference of the Jane Austen Society of North America.  Since the long drive had to be undertaken, why not take the long way up through the northern regions of Wisconsin in search of Fall color.  Although I kept going farther and farther north today, there was very little Fall color to be had even though we're well into September.

North of Tomahawk, I was stopped by an Oneida County sheriff's deputy who graciously let me know that the road had changed from 65 to 55 a few miles back.  Really nice guy who just gave me a warning; I suspect it happens a lot.  Anyway, I asked his opinion on the route I should take to Duluth with the goal being to see some color.  He agreed with me that I should just continue going north to Hurley and across Highway 2.  Jeff and I had gone as far north as Manitowish Waters to see Little Bohemia a few years ago, but I think that's as far north as I had ever gone.

The drive was beautiful but there just isn't much color yet.  Finally decided to stop for the night in Ashland and, as I came into Ashland, the sun started going down and the sky was a beautiful pink. Just as I finally found a Super 8 to stop for the night, I was able to get this quick shot of the sun setting behind Chequamegon Bay.  It's directly across the street from the motel so I'm looking forward to seeing the whole view tomorrow morning before I set out for Superior/Duluth.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Paine Art Center

Beautiful building and grounds at the Paine
On the list of historic homes in Wisconsin open to the public, I suspected that there was a tie to the Kimberly family with it being located in Oshkosh.  The whole thing actually turned out to be quite the surprise.

First, the building is really lovely and impressive when you approach it.  It reminds me of an English manor, which was their intent when designing it.  One can almost imagine the carriages pulling up in front -- until one learns that construction on it began in 1927 when people were, for the most part, not traveling by carriage any more!
The gardens are gorgeous
The grounds are lush and, surprisingly, planted with hundreds of basil plants (now in flower) interspersed with chives, kale, and other edible plants along with gorgeous red zinnias.  The smell was heavenly!  I knew that the Paine was on the list of approved project sites for Master Gardeners so I had been wanting to see the grounds for a while.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend as much time outdoors as I would have liked as I was with friends who were not interested in the plantings.  I intend to go back so I can see the plantings and pool in the back of the house as well.  Perhaps in a different season!

Construction on the house was begun in 1927 (by owners Nathan Paine and wife Jessie Kimberly Paine), and the outside was completed by 1930.  However, the onset of the Great Depression caused construction to stop in 1932.  It sat empty with very little work being done to maintain it until 1946 when it was established as a museum for the public.  So, in other words, it was never lived in!  He died in 1947 and she finished the work so that the museum could open in 1948.  Although they never lived in it, they did pick out all of the downstairs furnishings.

Warning:  the pictures for the interior of the house are not very sharp because, like many museums, photography is not permitted in the house so I had to pull pictures off the internet.  When making them larger, the pictures got blurry.

Grand Staircase in Entry
Like all great houses, the entry is impressive with a hand-carved oak staircase.  The intricate carving includes oak leaves and acorns.  The staircase was hand-carved in the Michigan workshop of Alois Lang, a Bavarian-born master craftsman.  The Main Entry to the house features three sets of doors and the ceiling of the foyer is vaulted in a style reminiscent of Gothic churches.  Off the entry is the Great Hall, the living room for the family.
Great Hall
Each holiday season, when 'The Nutcracker' is performed at the Paine, the main part of the action takes place in the Great Hall.

Breakfast Room
One of my favorite rooms in the house:  the breakfast room.  It has windows on two walls (almost floor to ceiling) and would be filled with sunlight and warmth.  There is a door that leads out to a lovely patio where meals could also be taken.  The formal dining room is nearby, but I would have spent more time in this room overlooking the gardens than in the more formal dining room.

There are three bedrooms upstairs, plus a dressing room that had been designed for Mrs. Paine.  During the presentation of 'The Nutcracker' part of the activity takes place in the guest bedroom, which is used as the little girl's room in the production.  The audience just troops upstairs to enjoy the performance as it moves around the house.
Master Bedroom
There is a 'gothic gallery' upstairs that looks as though it might have been designed as a chapel, complete with a stained glass window.  However, it was actually designed to serve as an echo chamber for the pipes of a large organ that would have been housed in the Great Hall directly below.  Additionally, there is a lower level that is used as a 'children's discovery center' -- like a children's museum.

A really lovely 'home' that was never inhabited.  I can't wait to see it at Christmas time when it's decorated for the holidays with multiple Christmas trees and garland on that beautiful staircase.